Happy birthday to Rachel Carson, born on May 27, 1907 in Springdale, PA. She grew up exploring her parents’ 65-acre farm and her love of nature led her to pursue a degree in biology at the Pennsylvania College for Women (now known as Chatham University) and a master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University.
You might know of Rachel Carson for her environmental activism, but she actually began her career as a marine biologist. Carson became the second woman to be hired full-time by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and worked as a junior aquatic biologist. She later accepted a position as editor-in-chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. During this time, she also published several articles in Science Digest, The Yale Review, and The New Yorker; these would later become her book The Sea Around Us.
Rachel Carson became aware of the use of synthetic pesticides beginning in the 1940’s, but the government’s use of them on public and private lands prompted her to investigate the effects of DDT and other pesticides on the environment and ecosystems. Her work would inspire her to write Silent Spring, which would become a rallying point for social activism for years to come. The chemical industry dismissed Carson’s writings as alarmist , but her testimony before President Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee and a U.S. Senate subcommittee were influential in the eventual banning of DDT.
Rachel Carson died in 1964 in Rockville, Maryland. Since her death, she’s been awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and several conservation areas and awards bear her name. Locally, you can visit the Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale and adventurous hikers can follow the Rachel Carson Trail. It stretches across 35.7 miles of Allegheny County, beginning in Harrison Hills Park and ending in North Park.
If you’d like to learn more about Rachel Carson and her work, click one of the books below to borrow it from our catalog.